Nation in brief: Cheney lashes out at Democrats
Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday attacked Democratic leaders as the intellectual heirs to Sen. George McGovern’s “far left” anti-war policies of the Vietnam era and warned that withdrawal from Iraq could result in the descent of the country into a new version of Taliban-era Afghanistan.
Cheney, in remarks to the funders and board members of the conservative Heritage Foundation in Chicago, said “history is repeating itself,” with Democrats moving away from a commitment to fighting international terrorism.
“Today, on some of the most critical issues facing the country, the new Democratic majority resembles nothing so much as that old party of the early 1970s,” Cheney said, citing issues including taxes and spending and foreign policy.
Cheney and President Bush have gone on the offensive in recent weeks against congressional Democrats, following the passage of war-spending bills that tie funding to a drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said he was “disappointed” by Cheney’s speech.
“To suggest that we don’t need a change of direction in Iraq is just inconsistent with reality,” Durbin said in a brief press conference Friday in Chicago.
Lawyer jumps from Empire State tower
A man jumped to his death Friday out the window of a 69th-floor law office in the Empire State Building.
Police responded to the New York City landmark shortly before 3 p.m. after a 911 caller reported seeing a severed leg on the street below. The rest of the body was recovered from a setback on the 30th floor.
Police identified the man as Moshe Kanovsky, 31, a lawyer from Brooklyn. Investigators questioned employees at two law firms that share a suite on the 69th floor, but it wasn’t immediately clear what prompted Kanovsky’s suicide.
“He was interviewing a client,” said a man who works in the suite. “He just got up, opened the window and jumped.”
More than 30 people have committed suicide at the 102-story Empire State Building since it opened in 1931.
Chavez says Castro ‘almost recovered’
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday said his close friend and ally Fidel Castro has “almost totally recovered” from his illness and has resumed many of his duties as Cuba’s leader.
Speaking at a televised news conference, Chavez said the 80-year-old Cuban leader’s marked improvement was clear.
“Almost totally recovered is the very reliable information that I keep receiving,” Chavez said.
Chavez has regularly offered updates on Castro’s health in the more than eight months since the Cuban leader underwent emergency intestinal surgery and ceded his leadership responsibilities to his brother, Raul.
Castro’s condition and exact ailment remain a state secret, but he is widely believed to suffer from diverticular disease, a weakening of the walls of the colon that can cause sustained bleeding.
Principal, teacher quit in sex scandal
A principal and a teacher at a suburban elementary school quit amid allegations they were caught on video having sex in the principal’s office, authorities say.
In keeping with Cook County’s reputation for bare-knuckle politics, the scandal broke after copies of the sex tape were mailed anonymously to parents this week, just days before a contested school board election.
The case has also created something of a mystery: Who planted the camera that recorded the action?
Leroy Coleman and Janet Lofton submitted their resignations after meeting with the district superintendent Thursday, said John Izzo, board attorney for the Sandridge Elementary School district, about 20 miles south of Chicago.
A third school employee, teacher’s aide Anjayla Reed, resigned Friday after the superintendent contacted her about allegations that she appears on a separate portion of the tape hugging and touching the principal, Izzo said. She gave no reason for her resignation.